Health + Wellness

The Black Author Comic Book Universe

The Rose Library also has a sizeable Black comic book collection. “It was a Black-authored universe by Dwayne McDuffie, who was a major comic book creator and someone who is also behind a lot of the Saturday morning superhero TV shows.”

Early Life & Education

American comic book and television writer Dwayne Glenn McDuffie (February 20, 1962–February 21, 2011)  co-founded Milestone Media. This minority-owned comic book company championed underrepresented minorities and created Icon, Rocket, Static, and Hardware. Static Shock, Damage Control, Justice League Unlimited, and Ben 10 were among McDuffie’s animated works. He garnered three Eisner Award nominations for his comics.

The son of Leroy and Edna (Hawkins) McDuffie Gardner, he was raised in Detroit. He graduated from Bloomfield Hills’ Roeper School for gifted kids in 1980. He said of African-American comic protagonists: “Only two characters were kid-friendly. There were dumb, furious brutes and smart-but-black people. All were Hershey-bar black, sickly gray, or purple. I’ve never met gray or purple folks. Colored characters were incorrect and undiversified.”

He earned a bachelor’s in English and a master’s in physics from Michigan in 1983. He studied film at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. While copy editing at Investment Dealers’ Digest, a buddy offered McDuffie a Marvel Comics associate editor position. The comedian Keegan-Michael Key discovered he was Dwayne McDuffie’s biological half-brother via their father after his death.

Marvel & Milestone

McDuffie created Marvel’s first superhero trading cards while working as editor Bob Budiansky’s assistant on special projects. He wrote Marvel tales. His first work, Damage Control, was a miniseries about a business that cleans up after fights between superheroes and villains.

After becoming an editor at Marvel, McDuffie proposed a parody comic called Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers in protest to Marvel’s depiction of black characters. As a freelancer in 1990, McDuffie wrote for several Marvel, DC, and Archie comics series. In addition, he authored Monster in My Pocket for Harvey Comics editor Sid Jacobson, whom he credits with teaching him everything on his website. 

McDuffie and three partners formed Milestone Media in the early 1990s to provide a multicultural perspective to comic books, which The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, Ohio, called “the industry’s most successful minority-owned-and-operated comic firm” in 2000.

McDuffie said: Black, female, and Asian characters aren’t simply that. They can’t be intriguing since whatever they do represents a whole race or sex. But both Superman and Lex Luthor are not exclusively white. We needed many books to show various characters in each ethnic group. We had to write many volumes and portray a broader worldview. 

Milestone Comics, featuring characters including African-American Static, Icon, Hardware, Asian-American Xombi, and multi-ethnic Blood Syndicate, launched in 1993 under a DC Comics distribution arrangement.

Death & Tributes

McDuffie, 49, passed away at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, due to complications after emergency heart surgery on February 21, 2011. 

  1. The documentary “A Legion of One: The Dwayne McDuffie Story” was included in the Blu-ray and 2-disc DVD versions of Justice League: Doom, a 2012 film devoted to his memory. That year, “McDuffie’s” restaurant appeared in the episode “The New Guy” of Green Lantern: The Animated Series.
  2. In 2012, the “Damage” episode of Ultimate Spider-Man honored Dwayne McDuffie. In the episode, “Mac” was introduced as the CEO of McDuffie’s fake firm, Damage Control.
  3. Additionally, in 2012, the Ben 10: Ultimate Alien team honored him in the credits of the last episode, “The Ultimate Enemy: Part 2”. Ben 10: Galactic Racing, a video game based on the series, had a similar homage.
  4. In the 2011 comic series Static Shock, Virgil Hawkins’ new high school is named after McDuffie.
  5. 2015 the Long Beach Comic Expo presented the first Dwayne McDuffie Award for Comics Diversity. The expo now has an annual event.
  6. The Dwayne McDuffie Award for Kids’ Comics is presented annually during the Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival.
  7. The DC Comics character Naomi’s surname was revealed as McDuffie in 2019.

This is a part of our new series – “Hidden Gems in Black History,” where we highlight uncommon facts throughout Black history. Join us every day during Black History Month for interesting facts about Black people and places you likely haven’t heard before!

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